Flying over Downtown

Flying over Downtown - Phoenix, Arizona

Flying over Downtown – Phoenix, Arizona

Rightly or wrongly, I judge a city by its downtown. After all, there isn’t much to a suburb, or city, if there is no center. I realize that the newer American cities, which grew after World War II, sprawled out. Certainly, Austin and other Texas cities are guilty of this, but nothing I think, compared to Phoenix.

There doesn’t seem to be much to the downtown of this place. And, my sister who lives there, also agrees. But, as I flew over the downtown, on the way to San Francisco, Phoenix seemed larger than I remembered. We changed planes at the airport for our next leg out to California.

After some research, I discovered that the city is the fifth largest in the United States at 1.6 million. There’s been a little downtown skyscraper development in the last few years, but not much. Its big downtown boom appeared to happen in the 70’s and 80’s. Austin, by contrast, while smaller has a more happening downtown. We have taller buildings and a dynamic and still growing core, which Phoenix lacks.

Taller doesn’t mean better, of course. Though that might be a point of pride for the average Texan. No, my measure of a downtown is how vibrant it is. Are people walking downtown at all hours? Or does it empty out after 5PM?

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3 thoughts on “Flying over Downtown

  1. Phoenix may not have any skyscrapers (buildings over 150 meters), but it does have a slew of buildings from 200′ to 483′ (over 40 at last count). Unfortunately, Phoenix is hampered by FAA height limits (the same as San Diego) due to the proximity of Sky Harbor International. This limits Downtown Phoenix to roughly a 550′ height limit. With that said, Downtown has built 4 high-rises over 230′ in the last few years and currently there are 4 towers under construction with the tallest at 350′. Also, Downtown Phoenix currently has 13 more high-rises in the pipeline with 5 getting ready to start construction in the next couple of months. So, while Phoenix may not have the tallest skyline, it will be a dense collection of towers once this current build cycle ends. Also, Downtown has experienced a major residential boom with dozens of multifamily projects being recently completed or under way. While downtown growth has been slow over the many decades (taking a backseat to suburban sprawl), the trend has changed in the last decade and Downtown Phoenix is becoming a hot-spot over the last few years with many more to come. Better late than never, but we are getting there.

    1. Hi Ronnie, thanks for your comment and updates on the latest coming to Phoenix. It’s great to hear about the new development in downtown.

      I realize there is more to a downtown than tall buildings. Vibrancy, with a mix of residential, offices, restaurants, retail and event spaces should be the defining goal. Many cities in Europe, for example, don’t have tall buildings but they can be vibrant.

      My hope is, Phoenix continues its development and transforms the downtown into a larger destination.

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